Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, August 13, 1997

Bishop Estate trustees’
influence racket

CALL it coincidence, call it politics or call it our own statewide shameful secret, but will someone call Bishop Estate trustees on their political influence racket? How much longer must we endure the ongoing Bishop Estate saga?

Sometime after I came to Hawaii in 1968, I remember reading a speech by a politician who had announced that "the days of shibai" have ended. After learning what shibai meant, I felt comfortable knowing that here in America's newest state, political BS was not allowed.

It was probably the last time I believed a politician's speech.

So now, we are again treated to a list of Bishop Estate perfidy by a team led by University of Hawaii Law School Professor Randy Roth and composed of four of the most akamai straight arrows you could assemble in Hawaii.

The four: Sam King, senior federal judge; Msgr. Charles Kekumano, chairman of Queen Liliuokalani Trust; Walter Heen, retired state Intermediate Court of Appeals judge and former councilman and legislator; and Gladys Brandt, former principal of Kamehameha School for Girls and former chairwoman of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

They are all public servants, level-headed, trustworthy, gracious and fair.

Last weekend in the Star-Bulletin they along with Roth joined the ranks of those questioning how the Bishop Estate is run.

Central to the argument today, last year, 10 years ago and even two decades ago, is that the Supreme Court is a political creature stocked, like much of Hawaii's judiciary, with former politicians and the friends, cronies and allies of the ruling party.

In 1994, when the last Bishop Estate trustee was selected, speculation had it that former Gov. John Waihee would be selected. He said he didn't want it.

The Supreme Court didn't pick him, but key to the argument made by Roth and crew is that the Supreme Court wanted Waihee on the estate board.

Unless the justices open their records and can prove their deliberations were different, the public can look to the record and only doubt the credibility of the court.

In the past, the court had picked one of its own, William Richardson; the sitting speaker of the House, Henry Peters; the just retired Senate president, Richard Wong; and a former public school bureaucrat and candidate for Maui mayor, Lokelani Lindsey.

None of them were on Alan Greenspan's short list of economic advisers, nor did the nation's top educators or investment counselors rush to them for advice, yet the Supreme Court still put them in charge of an estate controlling more privately held land than any other entity in Hawaii.

AS the Saturday report noted, however, according to the estate's own account, it had investment losses of $34 million and $44 million in 1995 and 1996.

The money lost is staggering because the report says that in 1995, Bishop Estate spent just $84 million for educational and charitable expenditures, which, of course, is the purpose of the estate.

The report located one of the country's top legal experts on trusts and fiduciary duties, Ed Halbach, who said he couldn't understand why "the people of Hawaii, not to mention its public officials, haven't been more concerned."

Gov. Ben Cayetano now is asking for a state investigation, but we still don't know if it will end the "days of shibai."

Bishop Estate facing inquiry
Change could be simple
Peters: No one scrutinized more
Alumni group welcomes probe
Waihee disputes allegations
Roth: Fuse is lit...
Capitol View by Richard Borreca
The Report that Started It All

Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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